I’ve seen a common theme both inside and outside of the gym; I’ve found that many people I talk to, generally women, in particular, are motivated to exercise by their desire to lose weight. I don’t fault anyone for wanting to be at a weight they feel comfortable at; however, I find the driving force is often coming from shame or guilt. I understand this because I’ve experienced it first hand.
Social Influences Guilting to Lose Weight
Being in Junior High, hitting puberty, and the flood expectations linked to femme bodies was overwhelming. I was lucky to grow up in a home with a mother who intentionally avoided speaking bad about her body, and never body shamed anyone. Even with this attitude at home, the minute I started Junior High, I was reminded of all the ways that our bodies were never accepted naturally. There was pressure from the girls in my school, but all of us felt the immediate demand from media and our unspoken insecurity of someone able to view our flaws. This pressure brought shame about my body and guilt whenever I ate ‘bad’ food or didn’t exercise.
Positive Mindset is Important
It wasn’t until after High School that I really started to evolve from this type of thinking. I began to challenge the way I thought about myself by shifting the way I was thinking about my self to others.
Do I think people who are fat are less valuable? No.
Do I really think I would lose value with every pound gained? No.
So why do I feel guilty when I eat?
I started to think about who would benefit every time I’d feel bad about myself. What product is sold by making people think this way?
This shift in my thinking helped me to understand where this pressure was coming from and how it was affecting me. That didn’t mean I was magically immune to these messages but allowed me to help challenge myself when these fears would creep up as well as allowing me to see my own biases and fatphobia. My goal was to work to unlearn what I had been taught.
Find Your Passion for Weight Loss
My first venture back into exercise started with going for walks on the beach. I loved these beach walks because I love the beach, and they allowed alone time. I found the walks beneficial for managing my anxiety, allowing me to get my nervous energy out by having some space from people. Eventually, I began running on the beach, and I loved it. I found my love being outside and doing something for myself, I felt no pressure from anyone else to keep exercising. The difference between my chosen exercise and the demanded exercise I was forced to do in Junior High and High School was evident. My love for this outlet for my nervous energy led me back to MMA gyms, where I could hit the bags and roll BJJ.
Journey to Self-Care
My relationship with exercise is now one of self-care. I do exercise that I enjoy, allowing me to help manage my anxiety and work as a release for stress. Feeling myself getting stronger and to notice my endurance increase. When stepping on a scale I realized it triggered my weight-loss mentality. In fact, I usually gain weight when I’m exercising, because of muscle development and increased appetite. I weigh more when I am strong and healthy, and that is not uncommon. Many people are both fat and fit, fat and healthy: the two are not mutually exclusive.
What’s Driving Your Motivation?
I would encourage anyone interested in losing weight to take a minute and examine where that drive is coming from. Is it weight loss would help you feel more confident? Or is it learning to love the body you’re in? Learning that part of loving that body is to do things that make you feel good? Personally, I’ve found more truth in the latter. Leaving behind the shame and guilt creates more space to learn what caring for our body looks like. For me, it’s hitting and kicking pads as well as eating chocolate. I’d encourage anyone interested in self-care to try both.